Peter Rhodes on waving the flag, humiliating criminals and footing the bill for the royal yacht

Read the latest column from Peter Rhodes.

Sir Simon – rattled by the Proms
Sir Simon – rattled by the Proms

I suggested a few weeks ago that the cost of the new royal yacht, which Downing Street estimated at £200 million in May, would creep up to £500 million. It has started. Just three months has passed and before a single rivet has been fitted, we are now told the bill will be £250 million.

Boris Johnson's plan to “get tough” on crime by forcing offenders to carry out public work wearing identifiable hi-viz jackets has been condemned by one senior police officer as “weird and gimmicky.” It's worse than that. Public humiliation of criminals is the hallmark of communist regimes and banana republics. It is weird, gimmicky - and downright un-British.

Have you had the letter yet? It's the one from the high-street banks demanding more information from us customers, allegedly to protect us from fraudsters. This time it's your mobile-phone number they want. I have always been very wary of this, on the grounds that if people have your number they tend to call you. But if you wish to buy stuff online then you must obey this diktat. Our lives are increasingly ruled by the demands of big business and the cleverness of crooks.

The great conductor Sir Simon Rattle says the “jingoistic elements” of the Last Night of the Proms, especially since the Falklands War, make him uneasy. Almost as soon as the shooting stopped in 1982, the Falklands War divided Britain into two bitterly opposed camps who will never change their minds. One camp believes it was a just war against Argentina's naked aggression. The other believes it was “Maggie's War,” cynically engineered to get Thatcher re-elected. But there is another perspective, often overlooked.

Instead of looking only at the war's impact on Britain, look at tragic, tortured Argentina where for the previous seven years a particularly vile military junta had killed more than 20,000 students, trade unionists, nuns, intellectuals and other perceived enemies, in some cases by simply dropping them from helicopters into the ocean. This “dirty war” was a grisly form of genocide, carried out by a regime as evil as the Nazis. It ended when British troops, supported by the “jingoistic” UK public that so alarms Simon Rattle, reclaimed the Falklands. The junta collapsed. Democracy took over.

“Maggie's War” was a victory not only for Britain but for Argentina, too. Isn't that worth waving a Union Jack for?

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